New Music Friday: Nearer, My God, to Thee

As you know, each Friday we highlight one of this year’s new titles. This week, we’ve got a setting of a 19th-century hymn tune with a famous historical tie.

“Nearer, My God, to Thee” was written in 1841 by Sarah Flower Adams. It has been set to music several times. The setting most famous in America is to the hymn tune “Bethany” by Lowell Mason. That is the version arranged here by Robert Longfield.

“Nearer, My God, to Thee” is famous in legend as the last tune played by the band on RMS Titanic before it sank.

There is some contention about whether this legend is true and, if it is true, what setting of “Nearer, My God, to Thee” was played. However, Hollywood is never one to let facts get in the way of a good story, and “Nearer, My God, to Thee” is a standard part of every movie about the Titanic disaster. 

Lowell Mason was born in Medfield, Massachusetts in 1792. He became a leader in American church music, often looking to Europe as a model to be imitated. He composed over 1600 hymn tunes. Mason died in 1872.

Robert Longfield, a native of Grand Rapids, MI, is an award winning composer, arranger, conductor, and educator. He has degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Miami where his teachers included Elizabeth Green, Jerry Bilik, Dr. William D. Revelli, and Dr. Alfred Reed.

Mr. Longfield was a music educator in the public schools of Michigan and Florida for over forty years. He is currently the conductor of the Greater Miami Symphonic Band.

Mr. Longfield has over five hundred publications to his credit, including several commissions. His compositions and arrangements have been performed and recorded throughout the United States as well as in Canada, Europe, Japan, and other countries.

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